There really wasn't much theorycrafting in the old talent trees, you had the "correct" build you used to get the most dps...and you had the people that just put all their points in one tree. The new trees really do give you freedom of choice, you can pick the talents you need for a certain boss, or switch them around until your get a build you are happy with. They have gotten to about as close as you can get to real choice in talents since the game launched. As a combat rogue Ive more or less had the same talent build since vanilla, and have set it once each expansion and never touched it again...that really wasn't freedom of choice. The old system was like how henry ford said "you can have any color model T you like, as long as it is black."
You are correct that there were builds that were the best, but it still left the room for people to play around with different combinations.
The illusion of choice does not beat real and true choice. With gear I do not see how you would consider new gear badly itemized, the old rogue tier gear had int and spirit on it, which were completely wasted stats to a rogue. Or pally/druid/shammy tier gear that was only for heal specs as that was all they were able to do in vanilla. You want to raid as one of those specs and do dps, sorry doesn't work that way...you get to sit at thew back and heal people.
As I have all my rogue T1, T2, and T3, I went back and looked (I have my original screenshots of them to boot) and there was no int or spirit on any item so I am not sure what you are referring to. Its some greens and blues I remember saying WTH because it had those two stats on them.
As for Pallys only healing in Vanilla, yeah and my guild had two that were the best out-of-combat rezzers ever. It was their job to stay out of combat and rezz people untill 5% of a bosses life. And they were good at it.
For attunement quests, there was no way you could do them while leveling....I did the ony attunement quest and that was a huge pile of blow, and the rest were nearly as bad. It was even worse if you weren't in a huge guild with lots of people to carry you through them. Here is a little reminder http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyQ-7o397Uk
in case nostolgia made you forget how "fun" attunements were.
Meh, I guess I did have that luxury of being in a large guild.